What a Thought Leader is vs. Isn’t

As we move more and more towards a creator economy, thought leaders are popping up everywhere (especially on LinkedIn). It can be hard to understand what precisely a thought leader is when everyone seems to be calling themselves one. To better understand what a thought leader is, it’s important to distill what a thought leader isn’t. 

A Thought Leader Isn’t…


At the core of thought leadership is having specified expertise in a field, sector, or topic. It’s not enough to be new to an industry or have a few years of experience. Of course, just because someone doesn’t have the credentials to be a thought leader now doesn’t mean it won’t happen eventually. It’s a title earned through years and years of experience, learning, mentorship, and dedication.

Driven by followers and a social facade

Statistics like followers and engagement typically quantifies success on social media. Of course, thought leaders want as many followers and engagement as possible, but that’s not how they define success. Success is how many people you’ve guided, lives you’ve touched, and pieces of information spread. Likes or followers can’t capture that kind of reach. 

A lifestyle brand

Many social media influencers use their personality and lifestyle as their brand. But thought leaders aren’t branded personalities; they are knowledge sharers. Their expertise, insight, and advice are what’s appealing to their community.


Everything they do comes from wanting to help others, not wanting to hear the sound of their voice. Simply put, a person’s intentions distinguish a thought leader from a run-of-the-mill influencer. 

See yourself with these qualities but want to move toward more authentic thought leadership? See how BW Missions can help build your online presence and stand out.

A Thought Leader Is…

Experienced and credible

At the core, a thought leader is someone with expertise and perspective in a specific industry that uses their experience to inspire, influence, and guide others. 

Passionate about impact

Above all else, thought leaders have genuine excitement and joy about helping others. They are driven by the desire to impact the lives of others positively. Thought leaders are thrilled to use their unique perspective to inspire, influence, and assist others.

Indifferent to metrics

A full-time thought leader is always trying to reach as many people as possible. Influencers, on the other hand, will do anything for followers and engagement. They may buy followers, partner with unrelated brands, or use clickbait. A thought leader is constantly optimizing their audience engagement and followership, but never at the expense of their integrity. 


At the heart of thought leadership is the drive to share your perspective with others. The best thought leaders ask how they can help others, not how others can help them. 

A long-term thinker 

Most importantly, thought leaders understand that it takes time to spread a message. While they might wish that creating a platform and building a following could happen overnight, they know that’s not the reality. They’re eager to put in the hard work and consistency to develop their thought leadership brand brick by brick. 

Does this sound like you? Learn more about how to elevate your thought leadership platform.

For Thought Leaders
Bryan Wish

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